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Affordable Care Act Delay Means Reprieve for Districts

School district administrators are breathing a collective sigh of relief: The Obama administration announced yesterday that reporting and implementation requirements of some parts of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will be delayed from 2014 until 2015.

Employers will have an additional year before they are required to report on employees' health care enrollment status, and those with more than 50 employees have an additional year before they must either pay for full-time employees' health insurance or face a penalty. The administration had received complaints that the requirements were too complex to implement by 2014.

The administration says that the delay will allow the government to consider simplifying the reporting requirements while allowing employers to determine their plans. Formal guidance on the transition is expected within the next week, according to the announcement. Other parts of the law are still on schedule, according to a White House blog.

While districts will still have to work out just how to meet the ACA's requirements, the delay means "they'll have some breathing room and not feel pressured to come up with a solution that might not meet standards and be subject to a penalty," said Francisco M. Negrón, the general counsel of the National School Boards Association (NSBA).

This March, during a comment period, the NSBA sent a letter to the Internal Revenue Service describing some challenges districts would face in attempting to implement the law and asking for clarification on other matters.

The NSBA's March letter describes several areas that would prove confusing or challenging for districts. In some case, it might not be clear if a district has more than 50 employees. For instance, are school board members who receive stipends employees? What is the status of substitute teachers who work for multiple school districts? The letter also outlines challenges that school districts that employ members of multiple unions might encounter.

Around the country, school districts had already begun considering how the requirements of the new law will affect their staffing arrangements and financial situations.

In Pennsylvania, the Central Penn Business Journal reports, more districts are considering contracting out some positions that had traditionally resided within the district. Check out the article for more detail about how both contractors and the district are thinking about how to prepare for the Affordable Care Act.

The Kansas Health Institute reported on the challenges small districts in that state were anticipating.

The NSBA said today that it was pleased that there would be a delay. Negrón said the nation's school districts are eager for more guidance and clarification regarding the Affordable Care Act.

My colleague Mark Walsh wrote about some of the implications of the Affordable Care Act last summer. And just yesterday, our Rural Education blog featured a story on how the implementation will be challenging for rural districts in particular.

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